The Region 5 Foster/Adoptive Parent Council held their 18th annual Foster Parent Conference at Stephen F. Austin University Saturday. The event was put on with the help of Stephen F. Austin State University's School of Social Work, TDFPS, and various child placing agencies .
The people in attendance consisted of foster parents, adoptive parents, and kinship parents.
"People say, 'How can you love a child that's not your own, that's not your flesh and blood?'" said Lufkin foster parent Gene Hazell. "There's no difference, none whatsoever."
There are many different reasons these East Texans decided to become foster parents.
"I just have a love of children and finding out the need for foster parents," said Nacogdoches foster parent Teri Seely.
"My parents were in foster care, and they introduced us to it," Hazell said. "It was just something we felt we needed to do."
Some foster parents said they face many challenges at times.
"It's very intense sometimes," Seely said.
"We've got them from every walk of life, you know, sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect," Hazell said. "You name it, we've experienced it."
However, the end result of helping children feel loved is what it's all about. In fact, often times, these parents end up adopting their foster children.
"We've adopted four of our own," Hazell said. "We had four biological children, and we've adopted four."
"We've adopted two," Seely said. "It really completed our family and it lets our children learn and want to adopt in the future."
With 31,176 children in the Texas foster care system, these parents encourage others to follow in their footsteps.
"I would say go for it, we need more foster homes," Seely said.
"We're so short right now of foster parents," Hazell said. "It's a big void that really needs to be filled.
For anyone interested in becoming a foster parent, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services asks that you visit their website at http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Adoption_and_Foster_Care/Get_Started/default.asp